Our story begins on Nov. 11, 1926.
The following telegram was received by Dr. Emmet Headlee.



Not only did Doctor Headlee approve of Odessa; he and the wife packed all their belongings and borrowed a car and moved to Odessa November 21, 1926. Next quote I found:

     "At present, Dr. Headlee can be found at either of
     the Drug Stores, or at the home of W.E. Carter. 
     Later he plans to equip an office over the Cash
     Grocery Store".

Emmet Headlee 1963 The Odessa American on Sunday, April 28, 1963
published the following article.

He's No Ben Casey--but What A Career

American Staff Writer
April 28, 1963

He's no Ben Casey but his stories are enough to stand your hair on end. He's Dr Emmet V. Headlee (now retired) who opened his medicaI practice here nearly 40 year ago. His repertoire included the time he performed a tracheotomy (cutting a hole in the windpipe) with a pocket knife.

He also remembers time and time again when he did appendectomies on kitchen tables by the light of a kerosene lamp. And at his side during the years he served a wide area surrounding the Boom Town of Odessa was his wife Marie.

MARIE, a qualified anesthesiologist also doubled in brass as midwife as well as housewife. Headlee, now 63 years old, arrived in Odessa at 8:30 p.m. on a cool November night in 1926. "I'll never forget that day as long as I live," the doctor smiled as he leaned back in his chair in his office at the Odessa Medical Center here.

Odessa. at that time, was a bustling metropolis of 450. Crane at that time had nine voters. The Crane field had just come in, they had one well at that time. The only way to get to Crane was on a dirt road and if you got out of the rut you were stuck in the sand," Headlee recalls.

Downtown Odessa, which consisted of one drug store, a grocery store and two general stores, was just starting to grow. And as the city grew so did Headlee's practice. At first he would make one trip a week to Crane to treat patients. Later, this was expanded to include two trips a week.

There was one other doctor, T.C. Hart, in Odessa at this time and Headlee said he moved to Crane in an attempt to survive. We weren't collecting enough to eat," Headlee said of his two month move to Crane.

But, after Ector County Comissioners appointed Headlee county health officer at a salary of $100 a month he returned to Odessa for good. He hasn't left since and says he has no plans to leave although he is retired for all practical purposes. Headlee's first "hospital" here was in a four-room, one-bath residence. The dining room served as the operating room. "It was just a shack, but it was Ector County's first hospital," be recalled.

Mrs. Headlee administered the anesthetic and assisted her husband during surgery cases. The job of a doctor today is the same as it was in Headlee's hey-day. But there have been changes. "I was a country doctor - a general practitioner," Headlee says with pride. "Today everybody is a specialist. And I don't blame them. They have it easier and; they make more money. "But what we need more of today is good old-fashioned country general practitioners", he says. "In the old days one doctor did everything that needed to be done," he adds.

What would be considered a major ordeal under trying circumstances today were "part of the game" during Headlee's early days here. "One day, I hadn't been here two or three weeks, this fella came to my office and said he wanted me to deliver his next baby, the elderly physician remembers. "I asked him who she had been seeing here and be said 'no one.' Then I asked him about pre-natal care and he shot back 'what's that?'

"WELL I told him to bring her in one day so we could run some tests. He said there wasn't any need for that cause she already had had three other children with out any trouble.

Then one night he called. It was a terrible night in the middle of winter. It was sleeting and snowing like blazes. 'Mommy (Mrs. Headlee) tossed her portable anesthetic machine in the buggy and we jumped in behind and headed for their home out in the country. Ahout half a mile from the house we had a flat tire. I was afraid to stop so we went on with the flat tire.

"When we got there the husband was out in front waiting for us. I told him to come inside and hold the lantern for us. He said heck no he wasn't going in there with his wife carrying on like that.

"Then we ran into a transverse presentation, one of the hardest births to deliver. Mommy gave the anesthetic and we operated there on the iron bed. "We finally got the baby delivered, but it wasn't breathing. I gave mouth to mouth respiration while Mommy treated the woman who was about to bleed to death.

"Later the baby started breathing and we got the woman fixed up. When we went outside; the husband was busy fixing the flat tire," Headlee concluded.

Then there was the operation: with. the pocket knife. "I had to go to Penwell one morning during the diptheria epidemic I gave the fellow a shot and told him I'd be back that afternoon for another look.

"When I went back he was as black as coal and about to die. I took him into the kitchen loaded him up on the table and then I found that I had forgotten mv instruments. Dumb me, I had left them in my coat back at the office.

I always carried a tracheotomy tube with me, so I took out my pocket knife and went ahead with the operation. That boy is a roughneck here today," he added.

Headlee, in his prime was a hard worker. "I used to sit up nights and cry with my patients. I hated to lose one.

AT ONE TIME, Headlee's little hospital was filled with three men who had lost their arms in separate mishaps. Roads were narrow in those days and it was easy for a person who had his arm sticking out a window to have it chopped off by passing vehicles, be recalled. One man, after losing his arm near Midland, kept on driving to Headlee's office where be was treated. And about 30 minutes later a friend of the victim's, who had recognized the watch on the mangled arm, showed up to return the watch.

"I could go on and on," Headlee says of odd occurances during his tenure as a doctor here.

At the start of World War II, Headlee had three associates but later lost them to the Army. So Headlee took up the slack himself and the next year did within $500. as much business single handed. as he did with the three assistants.

Headlee said the strain sent him "down for the count." He said he woke up in a hospital one day after suffering a stroke which paralized his left side. He still is partially paralized.

BUT HEADLEE doesn't let the handicap keep him down. He usually shows up at his office in the Odessa Medical Clinic between l0:30 and 11:00 a.m. each day and keeps busy for an hour or two paying bills and catching up on correspondence.

His philosophy: "I'm going to have a good time as long as I live," His big project this week is moving his boat from Falcon Dam to Brownwood Lake so it will be nearer and easier for him to take off on fishing trips. "I fish and she plays bridge, Headlee says of hobbies of himself and his wife.

Headlee was honored last week by the medical staff of Medical Center Hospital for his contribution to the field of medicine in Ector County. Headlee says his wife's name also should be in the plaque. I don't know how I would have made it without her" he explained.

Courtesy: Odessa American APRIL 28, 1963.

Courtesy: Headlee archives.
Last Updated: July 7, 1998